A native of China and a transplant to and from New Zealand, the fuzzy, brown, egg-shaped fruit known to us as kiwi is a recent addition to our diets, first appearing in U.S. produce departments in 1980. With more nutrients than any other fruit, this new arrival is a welcome one at that.
A Tasty Past
Kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa) once grew wild in the Yangtze valley and other areas of China, where it’s known as yang-tao, or gooseberry. At the turn of the century, missionaries brought gooseberry seeds back home with them to New Zealand, where the fuzzy crop was renamed “kiwifruit” in 1974. While unappetizing on the outside, glistening, emerald green flesh with a creamy center and a starburst of tiny black seeds appears when this fruit is cut open. This hidden jewel yields a tart potpourri of flavors variously likened to strawberries, pineapples, and bananas.
Recent studies have shown that the nutritional value of kiwifruit is, ounce for ounce, superior to that of other fruit. With almost twice the amount of vitamin C as an orange, kiwifruit contains eight times the nutrients of an apple.
Instead of an apple a day, two or three kiwi a day were what researchers gave a group of volunteers for a month. This sampling led to reduced blood clotting as well as an overall lowering of cholesterol and the conclusion that kiwifruit can help prevent heart disease and stroke. This regimen appears as effective as taking a daily aspirin for heart health. With its high levels of antioxidants (twice that of an apple), kiwi can add cancer prevention to its list of benefits, too.
Other useful substances include fiber (for healthy digestion), lutein (for your eyes), copper (good for the immune system and the brain), potassium (good for blood pressure), and vitamin E. One kiwifruit provides 50 calories, 1/2 gram fat, 0 grams cholesterol, 2 grams fiber, 8 grams sugars, and 1 gram protein.
Kiwifruit can be eaten whole like a peach or peeled and sliced. If you leave the skin on, be sure to rub the hairs off the skin with your hands before eating. Or cut in half and scoop out flesh with a spoon. Sliced together with melons and berries, kiwi adds not only an interesting flavor but also its unique bright green. The beautiful color and merry cartwheel configuration make for festive toppings for cakes and pies or, as an accent, floating in punch. Kiwifruit also have enzymes that make for an effective meat tenderizer. Place slices on top of meat and let it sit for a while before cooking.
How to Select and Store
Choose kiwifruit that are free of wrinkles, soft spots, cuts, and bruises. Water spots or marks on the skin’s surface don’t affect quality.
Firm kiwifruit will keep for 2 to 3 weeks (or more) in the refrigerator. Since moisture is key to nutrition and quality, keep in a plastic bag or the vegetable drawew of the refrigerator away from other fruits and vegetables if you’re not planning to use immediately. Do not freeze.
To soften, hold at room temperature in a loosely closed paper bag for 48 to 72 hours. Keep out of direct sunlight.
To speed up softening, put a ready-to-eat fruit such as a banana, apple, peach, or other fruit inside the bag with the kiwifruit.
Once kiwifruit is ripe and yields to the touch, refrigerate until ready to use.
When sliced, refrigerate kiwifruit promptly, enclosed tightly in plastic wrap.